Those who harbor the notion that family history research is the exclusive province of the elderly or middle-aged should consider the example of 16-year-old Matthew Grow.
Since he was 13 Matthew has identified and computerized about 23,000 of his ancestors and relatives who are descended from Jared and Charity Pratt, parents of Orson and Parley P. Pratt, two early Church apostles."I can't explain a lot of it," Matthew said regarding his motivation to do the work. "A lot of it is in my upbringing. But I do feel compelled to try to see this work done, and maybe it's the spirit of Elijah. I'm not sure."
"It's been interesting for me as a parent to watch him do this," said his mother, Linda. "As a ninth grader, he'd come home every day after school, hoping there was some new genealogical information in the mail from someone. And if there was, he would get right in there on the computer and start working on it. And it wasn't that we asked him to do it. He was self-motivated."
Matthew's absorption with family history research may be in his genes, so to speak.
His father, Bishop Robert J. Grow of the Little Cottonwood Ward, Sandy Utah Granite View Stake, is president of the Jared Pratt Family Association. He said it is the oldest family organization in the Church.
The association had been dormant for several years, when in 1990, Bishop Grow, then a stake high councilor over family history, and his family decided to revive it.
Their approach was to go first to the family history center at the stake center and download approximately 5,000 names from the Church's Ancestral File.
"Matt spent probably hundreds of hours sorting through these records to come up with the descendants of Jared Pratt," Bishop Grow said.
To that database was added the information in a book, Pratt Pioneers of Utah, found at the library in the Church Historical Department.
From the information in the database and other sources such as telephone directories, the family sent out about 6,000 mailings to Pratt descendants they had identified.
"We then got responses back from about 400 people, some in the form of computer diskettes, some as family group sheets. And Matt's job was to piece together this puzzle over time."
"And Matt has a tremendous memory," added his mother. "To us, this information kind of goes in one ear and out the other. Matt has most of it in his head. He recognizes the names and the people."
At Christmas time in 1990, the Pratts sent out hundreds of mailings proposing a summertime reunion to observe the 110th anniversary of the family reunion Orson Pratt had planned to hold in 1881. The apostle's illness and subsequent death canceled that early reunion.
The 1991 event drew about 800 people.
"We were trying to get a little help on the work," Bishop Grow said.
The method was to print out the entire database as a descendency chart. Pieced together, it covered the walls of the cultural hall of the Federal Heights Ward meetinghouse in Salt Lake City.
"Wherever we had dead-end lines, we put a sign that said, `Help!' " Bishop Grow said. That brought further information for feeding the family database.
A reunion last month in Nauvoo, Ill., was even more successful.
Matthew is not the only one of the six children to have been involved. Bobby, 17, Adam, 14, Serena, 11, and David, 8, have helped.
"But Matt's been the keeper of the database," Bishop Pratt said.
"And we have learned some interesting things."
One discovery was a book of Pratt family history. It had been uncatalogued in the Church Historical Department. But someone had remembered seeing it, and was able to produce it when the Grows asked for it. It showed that Orson, in his day, was undertaking for his own ancestors the work the Grows and the other Pratt family descendants are doing today. And it contained this charge from Orson to his descendants:
"This record is written to be handed down to future generations, not only to preserve the genealogy of my forefathers, but to collect and register therein, from generation to generation, the dates of births, marriages, places of residence and deaths of all the descendants of my four brothers and myself. . . .
"It is to be hoped that all our posterity of whatever branch or name will be sufficiently interested to preserve their genealogy to the latest generations."